Monday, 24 August 2015

My American Experience with the Sutton Trust U.S. Programme 2015 | LittleEllieMae

After completing a vigorous American college-esque type applciation in January of this year, I waited around for months and finally received the amazing news that I had been selected to be part of a group of 175 students out of over 6,000 initial applicants from the UK to be a part of the Sutton Trust U.S. Programme Cohort 4. I have always been very interested in America, although I had never had the chance to visit , it had been an aspiration of mine to someday explore this massive continent of dreams. So when I found out about this programme ran, funded and supported by the Sutton Trust and Fulbright Commission, I jumped at the opportunity to find out more options to complete my education over the pond as well as find out more about American culture. 

In April I attended the first residential of the programme in London and to say I was nervous is an understatement! However, I could recognise a few familiar faces from our infamous cohort Facebook group and soon realised that everybody was in the same boat as me and proceeded to make a ton of new friends! Over the course of four days we had extensive sessions, introducing us to the programme, teaching us more about America and its hugely different application process to its colleges. Its from this residential that the original 175 initiates were further whittled down to the final 150... which fortunately I was a part of! 

We then had another residential in June dedicated to taking our ACT exams (yaay.) and further prep for our much anticipated trip to the U.S!

A very tired, excited, and nervous me ready to board our early morning flight!
Months passed unbelievably quickly, all of a sudden the 5th August seemed to be upon us and I found myself on a train to London Heathrow airport at silly o' clock in the morning, buzzing with excitement for our trip to the States! 
It was my first ever long-haul flight (the furthest I've traveled is probably Portugal!) so I took advantage of the exciting new concept of in-flight movies and watched all the films I've been meaning to catch up with. And yes, I definitely got some strange looks when I shed tears at Cinderella. 

We finally landed at JFK Airport in New York. I can't even begin to describe how I felt when I stepped off the plane and onto American soil. My friends and I couldn't shut our gaping mouths in shock and repeatedly squeaking "Can you believe that we're here??!!" in excited high pitched voices. 

We traveled on our trusty 'Peter Pan' coaches to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut where we stayed for the week. Yale was everything I imagined it to be and more; the gorgeous and interesting architecture of the buildings, the friendly people and AMAZING food (maybe minus the packed brown bag breakfasts though...).

We were put into teams for the week and fortunately I was put with a group of girls who I was teamed with for the very first residential back in London as well as a few additional girls and we were led by our amazing team leader- we all clicked straight away and had a blast throughout the week. I've always been a relatively shy person but these girls were soo easy to get along with and we genuinely became like sisters by the end of the week (There were A LOT of tears involved when saying goodbye). I didn't expect to form such strong bonds as I did and I am hugely thankful for meeting these girls and I'm sure we will stay friends for a very long time! BLACK WIDOWS, WOO.

The main aim of the week was to visit some American undergraduate institutions to give us a feel of whether we'd like to continue our studies over the pond next year. We visited some incredible schools, the most prestigious in the world which I would only dream of even stepping foot in.


Lynn and I at Yale University
First up was Harvard University. This one was one of the most exciting for me as its renown for its incredible academics and inspiring alumni. Not to mention Elle Woods from 'Legally Blonde' totally went there (NOTE: An admissions essay video like Elle's is not the best idea.). We had a tour of the absolutely gorgeous campus; I especially loved the traditional looking residential colleges, enclosing some stunning green gardens. Later that day we had the much anticipated 'College Fair' where 31 institution reps from all over America came especially to meet us as we rotated in groups to ask questions. Although this was a very tiring (we were still recovering from our first day of jetlag) and boiling hot (We are not used to warm weather!) experience, it was amazing to meet so many admissions officers and find out more about the different colleges to help aid our future decisions. 

We also visited Columbia, Barnard, Princeton, Smith and of course Yale throughout the course of the week and each campus was so insightful. Each had its completely individual personalities and I found it interesting how different people connected with different campuses. Personally, my favourites of the week were Barnard and Columbia which are located on the same street in the bustling New York City. Barnard is a small women's college (never would I have thought that I would want to stay on in a female- only institution after already experiencing 7 years of it at High School!) that seemed very friendly, fun and artsy- characteristics that really drew me in. And Columbia is the bigger co-ed institution across the road that is full of beautiful almost greek-looking pillared buildings. I loved how both campuses seemed like they were in their own little bubble then as soon as you step out on the street you're in the middle of the busiest, most exciting city ever, New York. 

We spent a couple of days in New York City itself, experiencing some culture. This was the part I was most excited about as its been one of my biggest dreams to visit this city. First up we visited the Rockefeller Centre where we rushed around the ground floor, trying to find some dinner- we finally settled for chicken burgers and fries... but WOW the portions are so big in America, thank goodness for take-home boxes! Anyway, we proceeded up to The Top Of The Rock after dinner. We were all so full of excitement and couldn't stop smiling as the time counted down in the elevator and suddenly we hit the top floor of the Rockefeller. Walking out onto the balcony was one of the best moments of my life, as the beautiful New York City sat below us- it really was breath taking; I had goosebumps all over my body and I shed tears as my friend gave me a big hug, we looked out at the view. We had a couple of hours so we took our time exploring the Top Of The Rock: taking photos and just generally admiring the view. I remember discussing with my friend how tiny we felt, as we overlooked the millions of people rushing through one of the biggest cities in the world. I can't really explain all the emotions I felt that evening, but as the sun set and the lights of the thousands of buildings across the city started to light up and I was surrounded by laughter of my new friends, it was honestly one of the happiest moments I've experienced. I wish I could do it over and over again.

Whilst spending time in New York, we also visited Central Park to have lunch! This was really fun as some of my favourite films have been set in this iconic location (we continued to sing 'That's How You Know' from Disney Enchanted the whole time we were there! haha) I wish we could've spent longer in Central Park but it was fun all the same. It felt somewhat majestic with the dressed up horses and carriages dotted around the park!  And of course, Keira and I just HAD to do the infamous Phoebe and Rachel from 'Friends' run through Central Park... we got an awful lot of strange looks!!

We also visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I knew that this would be difficult to face but nothing could really prepare any of us for how hard- hitting it really is. I was too young to remember the day of the 9/11 tragedy but that didn't stop me from feeling the emotion from what happened. When we entered the museum, there was an instant mood change as everyone automatically walked slower, softer and voices dropped to a minimum. What upset me the most was a room which was covered in the faces of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy- seeing the thousands of photos of people who's lives were taken from them, it reminds you that they were normal, everyday people like you and I that had their own individual stories and that they weren't just another number of the 2,996 casualties. It really was a difficult experience to face but at the same time it was interesting to find out more, and to commemorate the victims. The Twin Tower Memorial Waterfalls are beautiful and gave us some time to reflect and remember those who were affected by the attacks. Rest In Peace. 

I had the chance to release my (not-so) inner shopaholic when we visited a mall! I'm forever watching american hauls on YouTube so I was so excited to finally be let loose in some of my favourite American stores! First up was Bath & Body Works. My best friend, Becca, bought be back some lovely bits from this shop when she last visited the U.S. and I loved them so I knew I had to pop in and check out the amazing scents myself! I LOVED their Thanksgiving/ Autumn range which was full of sweet, cosy scents- Thanksgiving Pumpkin Waffle being my favourite! We also looked in Victoria's Secret, Aeropostale, Forever21 and Sephora- where I finally bagged myself the AMAZING 'Too Faced Better Than Sex' mascara...a review will be up on my blog soon! I really loved exploring some new stores and managed to pick up some awesome buys!

I could probably go on writing about my experiences forever, but this blog post is looooong enough! I really hope you enjoyed reading about my experience with the Sutton Trust Programme so far; Its been the best experience of my life, seriously. I've done things and visited places that I could never have dreamed of doing at my age, made some of the best friends and made beautiful memories that I will cherish forever. I'm looking forward to finding this blog post in years to come and reminisce over these amazing times. 

I also filmed a vlog of my trip to America which you can watch here: 

Although I have decided that I'm more suited to UK education and so will be staying in England for the time being, I have appreciated every moment of this programme so far and can't wait to explore further opportunities in my future. 

If you're a Year 12 student and are interested in this life changing programme, check out the Sutton Trust U.S. Programme website here And if you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to ask me- I'm hugely enthusiastic about this programme so I'd be happy to help!

Thanks for reading!
Have a great day,

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I have not been asked by the Sutton Trust/ Fulbright Commission or any other party to make this post- all opinions and thoughts are 100% my own. I was lucky enough to be part of the Sutton Trust U.S. Programme and so all costs of the residentials and trip were funded by the Sutton Trust.